"The train leaving...": Claire Perry pushes for new rail link - but it's not Marlborough's
Claire Perry MP, making reference to the large area of the Devizes constituency, is giving initial backing to a scheme to bring a new rail link to east Wiltshire.
She is supporting a plan to turn a disused Ministry of Defence railway line that used to connect to the big military facility and stores centre in Ludgershall, into a passenger connection between Ludgershall and Andover.
When the Swindon, Marlborough and Andover railway was opened in 1882, Ludgershall had a station on the line - it closed in 1961 .
Writing in her political column under the headline Passenger service on MoD rail line may cut queues, Mrs Perry stated: "With so many houses being built in Tidworth and Ludgershall, substantial business and MoD development in the area and increasing congestion on local roads and the A303, there could be a very interesting business case for an hourly shuttle service, and it was great to dust off my railway knowledge and put it to work on a local project - one of several being analysed in Wiltshire."
The proposal from Transition Marlborough to link the town back into the rail network is not being analysed. Marlborough Town Council have backed the scheme and is now asking Wiltshire Council to fund a feasibility study.
To date Wiltshire Council have shown no interest in the scheme - and the Council's position has negated support for the Marlborough link from, among others, the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP).
Mrs Perry ends the section in her column about the proposed Ludgershall-Andover thus: "Our excellent Local Economic Partnership [by which she must mean SWLEP] is about to launch a rail strategy review so it is a good time to be pushing these projects forward."
Wiltshire Council has been involved in upgrading the rail service between towns in the west of the county, and is now underwriting feasibility studies on two schemes in the south of the county - the enlargement of Salisbury station and opening a station at Wilton, which is four miles from Salisbury.
Last week they started asking for views on "exciting proposals to redevelop and enhance Chippenham Railway Station". This scheme has come about after a successful bid through SWLEP for central government money. Now they have to see how they are going to spend the grant - all £16 million of it.
To the west of Wiltshire a major new railway scheme is beginning. North Somerset Council is leading a group of local authorities to undertake local sections of the very ambitious MetroWest project for the trail network in the South-West of England. Phase 1 is the reopening of the Portishead Branch Line.
Plans are currently out to consultation before they apply for a Development Consent Order, which will give them powers to complete the project. This phase involves construction of a 5.4km railway line, a new station at Portishead, re-opening and upgrading Pill station, and associated engineering works.
When Transition Marlborough launched their scheme to re-connect the town to the rail system, marlborough.news reported: "Voicing her support, although remaining cautious about its chances of success,
Mrs Perry said she would be contacting rail minister Stephen Hammond to discuss the proposal. But she added: “If I was the secretary of state for transport, I would say that £30 million was quite a lot of money for a relatively small town.
“However, there is an appetite in the department for post-Beeching reparations. I would be interested to test the water, and ascertain what hurdles we would have to jump to make a case.”
Last month, the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, announced that between 2019 and 2014 £47.9 billion will be available to spend on the nation's rail infrastructure, making the £30 million - or even £50 million - costs of the Marlborough link look a very small investment indeed.
Note: at the 2011 census Ludgershall (including Faberstown) had a population of 4,427 and Marlborough a population of 8,395.